Oral people can be literate: some reflections on aurally based literacy

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    English: The concept of literacy, in its “autonomous” view as a language derived skill offering certain cognitive advances, can be situated within the context of primary orality. Aurally based literacy becomes possible to the extent that sound (the “musical”) fulfils the function of a second order of linguistic representation in an oral society, a function fulfilled by writing in a society which uses writing (visually based literacy). The paper describes a model for aurally based literacy, drawing strongly on musicological insights (in particular those of Jean-Jacques Nattiez) on the meaning of music. It then reflects on the implications of the acceptance of an aurally based literacy for the study of orality, reconceptualised as “aural linguistics”. Conceiving of an aurally based literacy represents a particular way of undermining the notion of technological determinism, which has already received much criticism in research on orality (the oral tradition).